My Journey to Oz & Kansas—Part 2: Meet Jane

Today—August 12—is the 80th anniversary of MGM’s 1939 The Wizard of Oz premiere. A big day in the world of Oz fans. Including Jane Albright, president of the International Wizard of Oz Club.

After Jane read my blog posts about L. Frank Baum and my visit to the All Things Oz Museum in Chittenango, NY, she contacted me. We emailed back and forth for months. She invited me to see her own Oz collection.  

So meeting Jane was on the itinerary of my Journey to Kansas and Oz. 

Day 1: Evergreen Memorial Cemetery in Bloomington, Illinois.

Day 2: Meet Jane in Kansas City, Missouri.

And here I was.

And there I stood. At the door. Ready to knock. I honestly didn’t know what to expect—except that she seemed friendly by email and I knew she had a mountain of Oz stuff in her house. 

I’m nervous meeting new people. Will we get along? Will it be comfortable? Will I like them? Will they like me?

But I had nothing to worry about. When two people have something in common, the shared interest takes over. We basked in her Oz stuff—for nearly seven hours! She had stories to share about each item she showed me. When I asked her to stand with her favorite things, she went directly to the books.

Jane Albright & her books. The Scarecrow print on the left is a depiction of Fred Stone who played the Scarecrow in the 1902 Wizard of Oz extravaganza.

Jane has been collecting Oz memorabilia since age thirteen. She fell in love with Oz when a teacher read The Marvelous Land of Oz to her class, reminding her of the Oz books her mother had read to her as a pre-schooler. She found the family Oz books and began re-reading them herself.

To put her collection in perspective, first take a look at my own Oz keepsakes:

Yep! Dorothy magnets, my Ray Bolger autograph, and McDonald’s happy meal figures! That’s it. My complete collection, pre-Kansas trip. (Now I have a pillow and a few postcards to add to it.) 

Here’s Jane’s collection . . .

Picture by Jane Albright

This fills the whole third floor of her house. But her husband David doesn’t mind. He has a space of his own in the form of a woodworking shop. 

This collection is anything but dormant. Items are always coming and going as she shares the goods with others in various venues, such as:

First a word about IWOC. It started as The Wizard of Oz Fan Club in 1957, initiated by thirteen-year-old Justin Schiller. In 1960, L. Frank Baum’s son Harry Neal hosted the club’s first Ozmopolitan Convention, starting an annual tradition. Regional meetings began shortly after: the West Coast Winkie Conference, Quadlings in the South, and East Coast Munchkins. Conventions are for die-hard fans, with speakers, performances, Oz artwork, and memorabilia. 

IWOC publishes reprints of rare Baum works, the tri-quarterly The Baum Bugle, and other Oz-related titles, such as the Bibliographia Oziana which aides the Oz book collector.

Jane follows a long line of IWOC presidents. The first two were L Frank Baum’s first and third sons: Frank Joslyn Baum (1957-1958) and Harry Neal Baum (1959-1967).

IWOC embraces everything Oz, particularly Baum’s writings and Oz performances, including The Wizard of Oz Extravaganza (1902), puppet shows, the MGM movie musical, The Wiz, Wicked, and more.

Q & A with Jane . . .

1. What are some of your favorite pieces in your collection? 

JANE: I’m always torn between the rarest things and those I associate with special people. In books, my copy of Baum’s By the Candelabra’s Glare (the #2 copy signed to his son) stands out. But then there’s the first edition Wizard of Oz I got for $15 when I was 13 years old (published by George M. Hill Co.). And an exceptionally rare first British edition I got from another collector.  

I’m a total sucker for the Parker Bros. Wonderful Game of Oz. I can’t pass it up when it’s affordable and think I’m up to all five variants and a couple more duplicates. 

1925 board game by Parker Bros., photo by Jane

Other favorite toys would be the larger vintage dolls—a Scarecrow from the 1920s, an antique handmade Patchwork Girl, the 1939 Ideal Dorothy and Scarecrow, the 1985 Heart-to-Heart Tin Man. 

1939 Ideal Dorothy & Scarecrow dolls, photo by Jane

I’ll never forget the time a collector gave me my German doll of Fairuza as Dorothy from Return to Oz. Or the gift of my chalkware children’s lamp. 

The “Fairuza” Dorothy (1985), made for Disney’s Return to Oz, was manufactured and sold in Germany. The Tin Woodman was made by Heart-to-Heart in Japan and sold at Disneyland-Tokyo. These two dolls are among the rarest Jane owns. Photo by Jane Albright.

I also love my tiny Ozmite pin from the publisher’s club for young readers 100 years ago, and the diamond tornado my husband gave me for a birthday. I’ve had a couple pieces of Oz jewelry custom made, so those are favorites. 

How could I not say my autograph of Margaret Hamilton from meeting her backstage when she was the Wicked Witch of the West in a touring company? Or the Ray Bolger autograph I got for Christmas when my sister wrote asking him for it?  

Photo by Jane

I spent 30 years looking for the Wonderful Library of Oz boxed collection and the boxed Jello puzzles. In both those cases I found them far across country and had local friends show up with cash to get them and ship them to me. There are a good 20,000 or more pieces in the collection at this point, so there are lots and lots of favorites! (Read about how Jane acquired the puzzles—it takes a community!)

2. Which is your favorite Oz book and why?

JANE: I’ve always especially liked The Patchwork Girl of Oz. It’s a great story with fantastic new characters, but the edition we had when I was a child had lots of color illustrations. I think that made it stand out to me and fixed it in my mind as a favorite from my earliest Oz memories.

First edition, published 1913.
Oz books galore!

3. What college did you attend and what career path did you follow?

JANE: My undergraduate degree was from Kansas University, although I also acquired graduate credits at Rockhurst University, and completed a masters in Media Communications through Webster. Of course, “media” has totally changed definitions since the pre-internet period of my studies.

1939 Ideals dolls of Judy Garland as Dorothy. Photo by Jane.

4. What spurred your interest in becoming a collector?

JANE: Initially I just wanted to read all the Oz books. I started as a child, after all. Then the non-Oz books of L. Frank Baum seemed absolutely essential! Tod Machin’s collection of MGM merchandise and ephemera then expanded my interest beyond the bookshelf. His huge collection of toys, costumes, autographs, and so much more was a genuine catalyst. Fantastic, rare things I’d never seen before introduced me to new worlds of collecting. 

The book corner, photo by Jane Albright
Courtesy of Jane Albright

5. What did the book-collecting contest entail?

JANE: I won a the Snyder Book Collecting Contest at KU back in 1977. The guidelines called for no more than 35 volumes with a shared theme and a paper explaining my goals as a collector.  After the month-long campus display that was part of the prize, the staff of the Spencer Research Library asked me to put my entire collection on display. That meant my sophomore year I had my collection on campus with me, complete with media interviews and requests for group tours. It was really a joy sharing my collection that way.

Some non-Oz books by L. Frank Baum

6. How long have you been involved in the IWOC?

JANE: I joined the Oz Club in 1971 at age 13 and started attending conventions before I was out of high school. I had a couple short stories printed in Oziana, and became more involved when I was recruited to take on a newsletter for young members. 

Editing The Oz Gazette was great fun and involved lots of corresponding with members. Still pre-Internet years, so I’m talking letters with actual stamps! 

Responsibilities crept up as I served as a director-at-large on the board and Vice President. I chaired our 2000 convention celebrating the book’s centennial. It was larger than any event the Club had ever organized, and I could name a dozen individuals who each took on as much responsibility as was usually associated with an entire Club convention — very much a team effort. We were rewarded Sunday morning with a news report about the event on the front page of The New York Times

Since then I’ve continued to help in various convention capacities. I field incoming email, have taken on creating our annual calendar, and am currently serving as president. In that capacity I blog at OzClub.org.

I also provide the Oz Museum in Wamego, Kansas, with a display every six months that is attributed to the Club. Although I’ve often contributed to the Bugle, I’m also doing a lot of the layout work for our editor right now as we look for more people to support our publication.  

Parker Brothers Wonderful Game of Oz board game. Photo by Jane Albright.

Join me next time to learn more about the International Wizard of Oz Club and Jane’s various roles. 

RESOURCES:

Do you have a collection of any kind? Or is there one you wish you had?

I’d love to hear from you!

Ever musing,

Laura

11 thoughts on “My Journey to Oz & Kansas—Part 2: Meet Jane

  1. Oh my GOODNESS! This is a wonderful collection—such beautiful items. What a gift to spend time with it and Jane!

  2. Everything is wonderful, and so organized! Of course the books have to top the list of favorites,
    but I am in love with those dolls!!!!!
    Thanks for taking us on the visit.
    Jane is amazing, and the fact that she has been a fan almost her whole life is really special.

  3. Such an interesting collection and the history is amazing. Even Oconomowoc is highlighted from the past. Great work on your part, Laura. Keep it up.

  4. Amazing!!! We seem to mostly collect children at our house 😂, but I can only imagine the look on my Ella’s face were she able to play in that beautiful room of Jane’s! It looks like a children’s treasure trove. I love meeting passionate people, and Jane is obviously a very passionate people. So fun to read your blog post about her, Laura!

  5. What an amazing collection Jane has! How cool is it that she’s been an OZ and Baum fan for most of her life?!?! That is true love and dedication! Laura, what a fun experience… Thanks for sharing it 🙂

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